Manchester City stalemate moves Chelsea closer to title
As Guardiola's old team make history by scoring six goals, his new side draw a lacklustre 0-0 with Stoke
When the world watched Pep Guardiola's former club Barcelona pull off a miracle at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, the Spanish coach was forced to endure rather less memorable fare as he watched Manchester City play out a goalless draw against Stoke City at the Etihad.
It's only the second time City have drawn 0-0 since Guardiola took over in the summer and the seventh time they've failed to score in 42 games this season.
"Equating this game to epic events in Barcelona would be like comparing the Arndale Centre to the Sagrada Familia but this Premier League stalemate had its moments," says Henry Winter in The Times. The match will be remembered, he says, for little more than the performance of Ryan Shawcross who stood firm at the back to help Chelsea take another step towards the title.
City could have cut the gap at the top of the table to eight points with victory, but the draw leaves them ten points adrift in third place, behind second-placed Spurs on goal difference.
"This was the game Uefa did not really want to go ahead for fear it may take attention away from the Champions League. No danger of that, as it turned out," says Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail. "There will be nobody who talks with any fondness of this game, apart from perhaps Stoke manager Mark Hughes.... For City and Guardiola, however, this was a night to forget and, if that proves impossible, then certainly to regret.
"Their title ambitions are not buried. Not quite," says Ladyman, but the result does little for their momentum. "After Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough and a Champions League second leg at Monaco next week, they face Liverpool at home. A tough spell of games now looks that bit tougher," he says.
City's match against Chelsea next month no longer has the look of a contest that will reopen the title race. If the league leaders don't slip up against lesser opposition they can afford to lose to both City and Man United and still canter to the Premier League.